The Spirit of Waite Phillips

Welcome back. In his book of epigrams the great Waite Phillips wrote many things one of which was “the only things we keep permanently are those we give away” and Waite gave a lot away. Of course there was land, I’ve written about the Philmont Scout Ranch often. Money, yes, he gave away millions of dollars and even more importantly, by his actions he inspired thousands of others to follow in his footsteps.

This phrase “the only things we keep permanently are those we give away” can apply to small acts of generosity as well as big ones. I learned this two weeks ago when one of G.B. Williams’ heirs brought me a very old photograph of what is now the Rogers State University Building when it was under construction. Some of you may remember that G.B. was one of the leading builders in the area for many years. When the photo was taken only the steel framework of the building had been completed and a large crowd had gathered to watch the building going up. Of course at the time there was no Phillips building or Arvest drive-thru bank. No Weeze’s Café or even paved streets. The photo had been sitting in G.B.’s office for years until his death and then it was stored in a box until it was given to me.

In search of a permanent home for the photo, my first thought was the Bartlesville History Museum although I thought they might already have similar photos in their collection. However when I contacted them they were very excited so I called G.B.’s daughter about the donation and she was all for it. Two days after dropping the photo off at the museum, a letter arrived thanking me profusely as this turned out to be the only photo in existence of an important part of Bartlesville’s history. The photo is not on display yet but if you tell the staff you want to see the item that was recently donated by the G.B. Williams family, they will show it to you. Yes, this is just a small example of putting Waite’s beliefs into action and now the photo is available for all to see. You may also have something laying around in your house that does not mean much to you but would be as good as gold to the History Museum, Woolaroc or the Dewey Hotel.

This epigram of Waite’s was not the only one he believed in and his son Chope remembered he carried a type written list of them in his pocket every day of his life. For fifty years he never went anywhere without that list in his pocket and as Chope said, it must have been important to him. Here are just a few words from a man who led a very successful and useful life and whom I admire and look up to:

“The man who never makes mistakes never makes much of anything.” Waite Phillips

“Greediness, in all its various forms, is one of man’s worst enemies and also the source of many others.” Waite Phillips

“A man only learns in two ways-one is by reading and the other is by association with smarter people.” Will Rogers

“We do our best and most constructive thinking when alone for its only in silence that God speaks to us.” Waite Phillips.

Till next time, I’ll see ya down the road….

Fair Meadows Race Track, Tulsa, OK

Welcome back. The horse racing industry here in Oklahoma dates way back to before statehood and while I was in Tulsa this past Thursday to check out the new construction going on at the fairgrounds, I had the opportunity to catch a couple of races. Back in the days when Oklahoma was still known as Indian Territory, horse racing was the number one sport. Yes, according to Oklahoma Historical Society, horse racing was popular among both Native Americans and settlers. Even as recently as 2013, a survey showed that that racing brought in $223 million in revenues for the state and employed 6,400 people. The historical society also noted that at the time there were 14,000 race horses and 800 breeding horses in Oklahoma.

My research showed that the biggest jump in the racing industry took place after World War II when dozens of breeding and training facilities opened here and I didn’t know it but many towns had their own tracks back then. Of course there was no Oklahoma City Thunder, or professional baseball, just horse racing and it was the leading sport for entertainment.

In 1989 Tulsa opened its own horse racing track called Fair Meadows. Ron Shotts who was a well-known running back from the University of Oklahoma became the first racing director there. In the beginning, the horse races were held during the Tulsa State Fair. From the mid-1990s to the early 2000s Fair Meadows was a huge success with attendance averaging around 6,000 people per day. The famous soccer player Charlie Mitchell from the New York City Cosmos, opened a restaurant under the grand stands and live bands played before every race. As you can imagine parking was difficult in those days so shuttles ran back and forth from nearby malls.

The Tulsa Fairgrounds were wild and crazy all the time when the horses were running but all that changed when Indian casino gaming came into existence. Prior to the casinos, the race tracks were the only legal place to gamble but that ended. The crowds shrank and Ron retired but the track remains and friends it is still open every year from June to July, Thursday through Sunday. It’s a place where you can watch some of the finest athletes in the world run and it’s all free. Things are not as wild as they were in 1989 but it’s just as fun and for me being at the races has brought back some great memories. I worked for Ron at the track and lived right there doing security during those first few year of operation and all those stories and more will be coming out in a new book which I hope to publish this fall called “Before the Dew.”

Till next time I’ll see ya down the road……………….